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Trust Employees During Snow Days

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When winter weather was closing thousands of schools and businesses across the United States, it inspired a local HR firm to ask a rather curious question.

Indianapolis-based human resource consulting firm FlashPoint posted the following message on Twitter:

worker productivity snow day

That link, by the way, goes to a story from National Public Radio. That article has a few interesting points on the topic.

More than a third of companies now allow at least some employees to do their jobs from home. As telecommuting becomes more mainstream, a handful of states provide tax credits to encourage it, and the Obama administration is advocating it as a way to reduce traffic and promote work-family balance.

Working from home is growing more popular at all kinds of employers. A 2008 survey by a consortium called World at Work found that some 17 million Americans telecommuted at least part time. Consultant Maryann Perrin, who helps employers adopt flexible work arrangements, says telecommuting has become common in companies large and small.

“As they look at their business growing, this bricks and mortar that’s going to have to grow along with it is extremely costly,” Perrin says. “And they’ve realized if they can take more advantage of telework, that they can have a significant impact on the bottom line.”

Perrin says, though, that a successful telecommuting strategy involves more than just packing up an employee’s stuff and sending him home. New teleworkers may need to go through training on technical things — like how to use remote software — and on lifestyle issues, like balancing work and family. Supervisors also might need training to manage people they can’t see.

Spain says Fuentek has had few problems with its workforce of home-based professionals. But he concedes that telecommuting isn’t for everybody.

Some workers, he says, tend to thrive on the camaraderie, meetings and structured hierarchy of a traditional office job — things that can’t be replicated at home.

But back to the Tweet. To answer the question FlashPoint posed, we do have a a telecommuting policy at AccelaWork. The policy is:

Please conduct your work wherever and whenever you feel you can be most productive, most efficient, most effective and most satisfied.

That might sound a little bold. After all, shouldn’t employees come into the office most days? Shouldn’t they have set working hours? Shouldn’t we define what kind of work can and cannot be done from home?

The answer to all of those questions is a firm “maybe.” If there are reasons to be in the office, to work specific hours, or to specify where work should be done, it’s likely that employees will have the best perspective to generate these reasons and make sound decisions. We trust our employees to do what they believe is best for the company. Ultimately, any corporate policy is either a reminder of what everyone knows or a restriction on how people should behave.


© Flickr user 401st_AFSB

We’re no strangers to working remotely and how it affects worker productivity. We conducted Remote Work Week, a five-day series on telecommuting happiness, telecommuting research, and telecommuting technology. We also covered telecommuting and personalities as well as how to approach your boss about working remotely. We shouldn’t need “policies” about getting work done. Except, perhaps a policy to trust that employees want to do good work.

Great organizations have high employee satisfaction. If we want employees to be innovative, we don’t need to tell them where to get their work done. Instead, we need to focus on making sure they are fully empowered to work. Brilliance comes from being unencumbered. Avoid policies in favor of freedoms. Think beyond mere control.

For more information on how to transform your workflow and your perspective, contact our business process consultants today!

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